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Health Highlights: Feb. 4, 2009

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Zimbabwe Cholera Cases Surpass 65,000

The number of recorded cholera cases in Zimbabwe is now 65,739 and more than 3,323 people have died since the start of the outbreak in August 2008, the World Health Organization said in its daily update Wednesday.

About 1,038 new cases and 28 deaths were added since Tuesday's update, Agence France Presse reported.

The cholera epidemic is being blamed on poor health, water and sanitary services.

Earlier this week, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said President Robert Mugabe had agreed to allow a high-level UN team to visit Zimbabwe in an attempt to identify ways to deal with the cholera epidemic and a hunger crises, AFP reported.


Divorce Causes Face to Age: Study

Divorce can add years to your face, according to U.S. researchers who studied 186 pairs of identical twins.

Twins who'd been divorced looked two years older than their siblings who were married, single or even widowed, United Press International reported.

Antidepressant use also contributed to an older appearance, the researchers reported. Weight was another major factor. Among twins younger than 40, the heavier twin was perceived as looking older. But among twins older than 40, the heavier twin was judged to look younger.

"The presence of stress could be one of the common denominators in those twins who appeared older," study author Dr. Bahaman Guyuron, of the University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said in a news release, UPI reported.

The study appears online in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.


FDA Panel Backs New Blood Thinner

A new blood thinner called prasugrel marks a significant advance over older treatments, an advisory panel of U.S. cardiologists said Tuesday.

The nine members on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's panel unanimously voted in favor of approval for Eli Lilly's anticlotting drug, which, if OK'd by the FDA itself, would be marketed under the brand name Effient, according to the Associated Press.

The approval followed an FDA review, released last week, that found prasugrel appeared more effective than the current leading blood thinner Plavix.

Since prasugrel, which was developed by Lilly and Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo, was submitted for approval last January, the FDA has twice put off making a decision because of concerns about its safety. While the drug reduces life-threatening heart problems, it increases the risk of internal bleeding.

But the new FDA review, and the advisory panel's endorsement, indicate the drug's lifesaving benefits clearly outweigh its risks, the AP reported.

The agency is not required to follow the recommendations of its expert panels, but it usually does.


Cancer Leading Killer in Developing Nations: Report

Cancer now claims more lives in developing countries each year than malaria, tuberculosis or AIDS, according to a report issued in advance of World Cancer Day on Wednesday.

In 2008, more than 12 million new cancer cases were diagnosed worldwide and 7.6 million people died of cancer, Agence France Presse reported.

Developing nations accounted for more than half of all new global cancer cases and about 60 percent of cancer deaths, according to the report from health foundation and consultancy Axios International.

"Cancer in the developing world is a hidden crisis that goes largely unreported, undiagnosed and untreated," said study co-author David Kerr, a professor of clinical pharmacology and cancer therapeutics at the University of Oxford in the U.K., AFP reported.

"Cancer survival rates in developing countries are exceptionally poor. Lack of awareness, stigma and reliance on traditional healers mean most people do not seek medical help until their disease is advanced, and often incurable," Kerr said.


Nine More Canadian Poultry Farms Quarantined

Nine more poultry farms in British Columbia's Fraser Valley are under quarantine as Canadian officials try to contain an avian flu outbreak in the region.

Although a total of 36 farms are now under quarantine, the disease has been confirmed on only one farm, although testing and monitoring continue, CBC News reported.

The nine new farms were quarantined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency because they received products or equipment from the Abbotsford farm where an H5 strain of avian flu has been confirmed.

About 60,000 turkeys at the affected farm have been destroyed, CBC News reported.

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Posted: February 2009

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